Kia Ora, Welcome to New Zealand
It’s near-to-impossible to describe the exhilaration, disbelief, and surreal feelings I have at typing this from my current apartment housesit in AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND. I have waited years for this moment, and so to actually be here makes my head spin.
There were several times on the plane – upon takeoff, once or twice during the flight, and upon landing – where I freaked out, with the refrain, “Oh my god, Oh my god, Oh my god,” repeating in my head. I decided that saying it three times was appropriate. Saying it four times meant something was really wrong, and that wasn’t what was happening. Yes, I was nervous to be leaving everything familiar for a year, and a couple of times followed up an “Oh my god” with “What the hell are you doing?!” but mostly I was experiencing the disbelief at a lifelong dream coming true, and giving thanks for everyone who helped me to get there.
This is really a post about the kindness of strangers, and my incredible luck at finding people who open their lives to shower me with whatever it is I happen to need at that moment.
When I moved from Western Massachusetts to Boston in 2010, for 15 months I lived with the cousins of friends of mine from graduate school. I had a little attic bedroom à la Sara Crewe, and I cooked dinners, cleaned the house, did the laundry, helped with the yard, housesat when they were away, and occasionally babysat in exchange for the room. As I did not know how things would work out job-wise when I first moved to Boston, I was relieved to have a place that did not require me to pay rent or utilities.
A few years later, when I decided to move to Portland, Oregon, I visited for a week, staying with a man and his wife I had met on the other side of the country twice before. The husband used to workout with my dad when they lived in the same state a couple of years prior, so it was a bit of a stretch reaching out to them, but they were literally the only people I knew there. They kindly opened their home to me for my scouting mission.
During that first visit, I put out a call to Facebook for Portland contacts, and was introduced to the high school best friend of a guy I had met at a dinner party about 5 years prior. Talk about a stretch, but that friend-of-a-friend became one of my dearest friends in Portland, introducing me to a whole network of people through the Timbers Army and beyond. Though we also only met twice prior to me officially moving there, she offered me her attic bedroom for me to live in when I arrive in PDX, and so I spent my first month there, housesitting, pet sitting, helping to garden and clean, and thanking my lucky stars that I had such a friendly introduction to my new city.
When I was ready to find my own place, my first client in Portland hooked me up with her mother’s best friend, who lived in Maui most of the year and needed a long-term housesitter for her home in Sherwood, Oregon. I was literally going to be living in Sherwood Forest, as they had a large house on a 6-acre tree farm.
I would have my own apartment in the walk-out basement of the house, I wouldn’t have to pay for rent or utilities, they had a housecleaner come in every few months, and a grounds crew every few weeks. All they needed was for me to there (and not destroy the place, of course), occasionally vacating it if and when they came back from Maui and had family staying with them. I stayed there for two years.
In considering a move to New Zealand, I was really nervous about winging it even more than I had for these two previous moves, thinking I would arrive and pay for a week or two in a hostel. Though I’ve heard lovely things about NZ hostels, I was nervous about the lack of welcoming committee, which I have to admit I had quite gotten used to.
With another stroke of pure luck, in Auckland, the upstairs neighbor of the Kiwi friend of a woman I sit on a committee with in Portland was traveling to the States for the first two weeks that I would be in New Zealand. I have wifi, a kitchen to cook food in instead of eating out, a shower which I immediately made use of after 20 hours of travel, and a very comfortable full-sized bed for the first two weeks that I’m in NZ. So here I sit, the day after my arrival, wearing the new All Blacks jersey that my NZ host kindly got for me yesterday (thanks, J!), after having watched them CRUSH France with some new friends down at the pub at 7:30 a.m. this morning (more about that game later), planning out my next steps in in my new country.